Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shifting Gears

As many of you know, I am an instructor in our own community center martial arts program, and I'm also an assistant instructor for my teacher at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.

This means, most of the time, I spend my martial arts time in "instructor mode".

I'm not in the mind set of learning, but in teaching.  This means that I am thinking about the lesson plan, the curriculum, the progress of each student I work with, and mentally keeping "just ahead" of what the students are doing at any given moment. 

Leading warm-ups at Mid-Cities Arnis

At Hidden Sword, especially on Saturdays, I need to confer with my teacher in order to know what material he wants to cover.  This is  especially necessary with the junior Arnis students (the kids program), as I don't usually see them during the week (their class is before the one I attend; it's simply too early for me to be able to make on a regular basis).

At Mid-Cities Arnis, we have a written lesson plan for each class, so I need to make sure I'm teaching to the plan.

If you don't teach, you may not realize how much work this really is.  I usually leave class a bit mentally tired. I usually don't get the same kind of workout that students get (and that's one reason why you may see long-time and busy martial arts instructors on the heavier side, because you run out of time to work on yourself).  I also don't get the same effect of getting an insomnia cure that I do when I'm in pure student mode (because I can't totally switch my brain to being solely "in the now").

I've always been, in one way or another, a teacher-type.  I find myself in situations where I need to teach others, and I planned on being a school teacher (teaching history) until I found out how much bureaucracy and paperwork that's involved. Teaching is something I've always gravitated towards, and it's nice to be able to do it in my favorite hobby.

Teaching Anyo Apat to a visiting Hidden Sword student

But it is a lot of responsibility, day in, day out.

Maybe that's why I enjoy the opportunity to shift gears into full "student-mode" when I'm in kobudo, or when I go to seminars.  I get to reconnect to being a student again, and all the responsibility I have for the time I'm there is generally for my own progress and education and nobody else's.  I can "let go" all of the things that are needed when you instruct others.

I can also reconnect with the reasons I enjoy the martial arts in the first place - the physical and mental benefits, the camaraderie of being with other students and peers, the pure joy of acquiring new skills.

I still need my student mode time.  I don't know if I ever won't need it - I kind of hope I always have a part of my life where I'm just another student.  Maybe this is why you hear of life-long martial artists going from art to art (reportedly, Chuck Norris studies BJJ in his seventies).  This is why the MAPA concept seems to work - most of the rotating instructors seem to enjoy being able to be in student mode at our events as well as teaching.

Why are you asking me, kid?  Oh yeah, that's right... never mind.

Some of us just can't let the trapping of rank or reputation go, and they end up needed to be seen and to act in "instructor mode" all the time.  They never spend any time as students, ever.

I feel sad for people who can't or won't spend time as a student, as there is a real pleasure in letting rank and ego go and just opening the mind and learning what someone else has to offer you.  It's mentally and physically invigorating and it helps keep us connected to why we fell in love with acquiring bruises for fun in the first place.

Student mode makes my instructor mode better.  Not only do you get new material to teach your students, but it makes you a better martial artist overall.

If you're an instructor, how do you make sure you get to go into student mode (if at all)?  I'd love to know what you think!